I am happier now, and my life is a lot easier. I also take good care of my wheelchair because it is now part of me.
Ahmad is an 8 year old Syrian boy who suffers from a disability. “I was so scared when the doctor told me that my baby had cerebral oedema," says Ahmad's mother. "I was in my fifth month of pregnancy.” Even though the doctor assured her that “he will have a normal life,” she noticed that her son was in fact different from most other children his age. It was clear to her that he was struggling from the way he walked, the way he moved, the way he played. She also noticed that Ahmad would often get frustrated, and even aggressive, when he couldn’t walk by himself. Eventually, his condition worsened, resulting in spasticity in his lower limbs. His physical condition had a detrimental impact on both his and his parents’ mental health.
Ahmad and his family have been living in Lebanon for the past 5 years, fleeing Syria after years of war and seeking the safety of the neighbouring country. They settled in Burj Brajneh camp, located in the Southern suburb of Beirut. Established in 1949, it also has been a home to Palestinian refugees, and is in one of the most overcrowded and deprived neighbourhoods in the country. The ongoing crisis in Syria resulted in new waves of refugees to the camp.
Living with a disability is challenging enough. Having to live with that in an overpopulated and deprived neighbourhood like Burj Barajneh proved to be too difficult for Ahmad and his family. Things changed for the family when Ahmad was referred to Al Kayan primary healthcare centre where he was seen by a specialist. He was able to benefit from a treatment plan including physical therapy sessions and was given a much needed wheelchair. His family was also offered support and additional information and education about their son’s condition and how to best care for him.
This was made possible thanks to the REBAHS II programme (which stands for “Reduced Economic Barriers to Accessing Healthcare Services") led by the International Medical Corps (IMC) and funded by the European Union, via the Trust Fund. The project focuses on delivering affordable and comprehensive primary healthcare, community healthcare, and also mental healthcare for Syrian refugees and Lebanese patients, in equal measure, with a specific focus on vulnerable populations including persons with disabilities. More than 860,000 patients were able to benefit from the project.
Ahmad’s mother says that since her son has received the wheelchair earlier this year, he is able to perform most tasks on his own and has grown to be more confident and independent. He plays with his friends and siblings, and is able to participate in most activities.
When asked about his experience, Ahmad says “I am happier now, and my life is a lot easier. I also take good care of my wheelchair because it is now part of me.”
Like Ahmad, Mortada—a 76-year-old Lebanese man, was seen by a specialist at Al-Kayan clinic earlier this year. Mortada couldn’t stand or walk on his own—he used to rely on his children and wife to perform his everyday tasks. His case was assessed by the International Medical Corps’ team and he was given a wheelchair and adult diapers. According to his wife, Mortada is now much happier.
The EU support makes it possible for persons living with disabilities to access specialist services such as physiotherapy sessions, speech and language therapy sessions, as well as counselling and case management, and receive assistive devices like wheelchairs, canes, walkers and hearing aids.
The EU continued its support to ensure services to persons living with disabilities since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and in the aftermath of the Beirut blast on August 4. This continuous support is essential to enable families affected by the economic crisis to have continued access to specialised services required by children and adults living with disabilities.